F
ishing means being surrounded by whispering riffles, wide open prairie fields, brooding mountain ranges and deep thick woods. Most of all, it means streams rent through tortuous canyons, wide rivers, lakes sounded only by the lonely loon, oceans speaking soft and low as their waves trot a slow journey around the world.

Bullshit.

Fishing is a lot of things to a lot of people, but one thing it’s not is easily defined. Excluded from the latest definition, whose authors subscribed a little too obsessively to A River Runs Through It, is “ugly” fishing: the lines dropped from rocky piers, the lures twanged off bridge abutments, the fishermen picking through the empty parking lot out behind Sears to get to the water. Modernity hasn’t left fisherman many beautiful spots, but damn if that’s gonna stop us. Water means fish, plain and simple. This is the “fuck it, I’ll fish anyway” spirit of urban fishing, and it’s high time you joined in.

Many cities around the U.S. have reinvigorated their waterways and fisheries with aggressive new environmental protection statutes and strict rules against overfishing, but most people have been slow to recognize the beauties on the beaten path. In fact, today some of the best angling in the world sits under the noses of hundreds of thousands — some, under the schnozzes of millions.

So leave your sentimentality at the door. You can still fish however you want to — fly rod or spinning reel, with a black and mild lit to keep the bugs away like Grandpa did, or with Beethoven’s Third roaring in your head. These eight cities prove that you can get away within the city limits, and that some of the best fishing in the country doesn’t depend on a distant locale.

Additional contribution by Andrew Connor, Casey Johnson, Chris Wright, Spencer Johnson, Ed Estlow and Travis Smith.

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New York City, New York

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New York City brims with things to do and see; fishing is not generally accepted as one of them. And yet the city has over 500 miles of ocean, lake, reservoir, stream and river shorelines, and one of the best striped bass fisheries in the world laps against the feet of the Financial District. The city’s 29,000 acres of parks are filled with freshwater lakes and reservoirs, yet are relatively devoid of fishermen. It’s an odd coupling, and though some New Yorkers and outsiders have accepted the city’s angling opportunities, they tend to be overlooked and understated amidst the craziness of the Big Apple. Use this to your advantage. With a bit of hunting, you can find interesting spots to drop a line as varied as the city itself — a few steps away from other fishermen on a huge pier in Manhattan, an isolated Bronx pond with not a soul in sight, a Central Park reservoir that’ll have you drawing crowds of the curious (know what you’re getting into), a sleepy bridge on the outskirts of Brooklyn. In a teeming, expensive city that never sleeps, some affordable relaxation with a pole might just keep you sane.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
New York fishing licenses are relatively affordable: $10 for a non-resident day pass, $28 for a week, and $50 for a year, and about half that for residents. Most city parks allow both live bait and artificial lures and are strictly catch-and-release; feel free to spin, baitcast or fly fish, but know that hooks must be barbless and lead weights are banned. (Look up special regulations and fishing access for the particular park you’re visiting here.) Since water quality can be an issue, consider staying on the shore or wearing waders. And if you happen to catch the infamous snakehead, which has been reported in several parks, follow the DEC’s stern rules: “Kill it, freeze it, and report your catch”. For saltwater fishing from the shore, bring surf fishing rods and reels with heavy weights and natural baits, and check seasons for different species here.

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
Van Cortland Lake in the Bronx, Harlem Meer in Central Park, and Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn are all prime freshwater locales for largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegills, carp, and bullheads. For shoreline saltwater fishing for stripers, fluke and bluefish, check out the 107th street pier in Manhattan, which has good lighting and a roof, and the more remote Canarsie Pier in Brooklyn, accessible by the L train. Several top-notch charter boats run out of Manhattan and Staten Island and provide great access to the Upper and Lower Hudson River Bay for excellent striper and bluefish fishing.

Detroit, Michigan

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Sure, the city has fallen on hard times, but it’s bouncing back. Detroit remains a mecca of American culture with plenty of interesting things to see and do — including fishing. Geographically the city is in an interesting place for anglers: the Detroit River, which runs along Detroit’s downtown area, connects Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, with Canada just across the waterway, making it an ideal destination for catching walleye, bass, trout and perch. Admittedly it flies under the radar of most anglers. That’s fine; this just means more fish for you, and when the city eventually becomes a hotbed for those looking to expand their cultural horizons, you can smile smugly knowing you were there casting off “before it was cool”.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
With a Michigan fishing license, there are no restrictions on what species you may catch. Both out-of-state visitors and residents can purchase 24- and 72-hour licenses at $10 and $30 respectively you can also get an annual pass for $76 ($26 if you’re a resident). Most fish and frogs (except for lampreys, goldfish and live carp) can be used as bait, assuming that they’ve been obtained lawfully. There are restrictions on where you can use certain minnows, but bait shops are obligated to inform you where they’re legal. Fly fishing and spinnerbait use is also acceptable. Anglers are not required to release their catches unless they have not been hooked in the mouth. Though you can keep your catch (yes, it’s safe to cook), pay mind to the limits on how many fish you can take per species.

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
The best place to fish in the Metro area is along the Detroit River, which may seem surprising considering the river’s history of industrial pollution. However, with considerable conservation efforts and a decrease in manufacturing in the area, the River has become much more habitable. The result is one of the best walleye and small mouth bass fisheries in the entire region. As in any urban environment, you should consider safety a priority, but both the downtown and riverside areas are among the safest spots in Detroit. Riverwalk Park and Renaissance Center are two of the best places to cast off. To get a better view of the skyline, be sure to take a Ferry or cross the McArthur Bridge to get to Belle Isle, a state park right in the middle of the river. Want to really get out on the water? Head Northeast to the Grosse Point and St. Clair Shores ‘burbs and you’ll find ample boat launches (bring a boat) and fishing charters.

Miami, Florida

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The waters of Miami are never quiet. Since the ’90s, the Port of Miami has funneled more aging couples and screaming kids onto cruise passenger ships than any other port in the world, sending them on their way into the Caribbean Sea. Tour ships traipse daily along Millionaire’s Row, carrying sunblock-caked Northerners who snap pics of mansions whose millionaire owners lounge nearby in ultra-luxe superyachts. Year round, chartered fishing boats avoid all of this, cutting east past Miami’s channel and Biscayne Bay for premier light-tackle bluewater sportfishing; anything from pilchards and herrings to mackerel, kingfish and bonito. Miami brushes up against the Gulf Stream, which carries warm water, fish and the occasional oil spill up the East Coast towards Iceland, giving open-water anglers a huge array of fish to choose from. And back on land, Miami’s extensive canal system is famous for huge numbers of prized butterfly peacock bass, which were introduced in 1984 in order to prey on the more destructive non-native species that were flourishing at the time.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
A three-day saltwater license costs $17; freshwater licenses go for the same price. Exemptions include angling on a fishing boat with a recreational license, or on a licensed fishing pier. Cast nets are legal for certain species, but most anglers opt for hooks with live bait or plastic frogs and other topwater lures. The diversity of species in Miami waters is such that many species are unregulated; in those cases, a uniform bag limit is enforced at two fish or 100 pounds (whichever comes first). Boaters must also observe low wake zones and manatee protection zones, along with fines and regulations surrounding Florida’s Coral Reef Protection Act.[/one_half]

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
Saltwater anglers (and especially fly fishers) casting from land should head to Key Biscayne, with the areas near the Rickenbacker Causeway being the most convenient. You’ll find harks, snook, bonefish, tarpon, dolphin, barracuda and snapper. And for those looking to go out in boats, there’s an endless supply of private fishing charters. Though most are costly, the price is worth the chance to hook a giant dolphin fish, swordfish, sailfish and marlin — one of the largest fish in the world. Those on a budget should consider public boats going out of Miami for about $50 a person — just aim for off hours to avoid the crowds and know that you won’t do much serious fishing. Freshwater anglers should head to Tropical Park in South Miami for largemouth bass, bluegill and catfish — or post up on a canal with boat or shoreline access for the beautiful peacock bass, which are highly respected for the ferocious fight they put up. Lake dwellers should aim to cast where there are contour changes along the lake or canal bottom, or where the bottom composition transitions from weeds to bare bottom.

Seattle, Washington

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This is another city that’s perfect for fishing because of its unique geography. The birthplace of grunge sits sandwiched between the Puget Sound to the west, in which record numbers of king, chinook and coho salmon migrate from the North Pacific, and Lake Washington, the second largest natural lake in the state, to the east. Despite frequent light precipitation, the city dries up during the summer, which is the best time for fishing and hiking in the largely untapped American northwest.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
You’ll need a saltwater or freshwater fishing license, depending on your preference; the city also sells day passes that cover saltwater, freshwater and shellfish for about $15-$20 a day, if you are just passing through. Fishing limits vary widely by species, so check the listing here and make sure you fill out a catch card for sturgeon, steelhead, salmon, halibut, and Dungeness Crab. Anglers must be aware of tribal fishing areas; Washington has the fifth largest population of Native Americans by state, and the law provides an exemption allowing tribal fishermen to use drift nets in Seattle rivers, and anglers must give way as the nets pass through. Due to declines of white sturgeon in the lower Columbia River, the Puget Sound and its tributaries are now catch-and-release only for sturgeon (green sturgeon are still illegal to retain). If you do catch a sturgeon, make sure you get a good look at it before you release it; their appearance is virtually identical to the earliest fossil record. Additionally, as of this year, anglers can fish with two poles if they have a valid two-pole permit. Barbed and barbless hooks are allowed; nets are not, besides dip nets.

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
For freshwater rainbow trout, channel catfish, crappie and bass, head north to the fishing piers of Green Lake or the docks at Foster Island, just before the Ship Canal meets Lake Washington. May to October is best for catfish, and during the summer you will want to fish at deeper depths. Saltwater anglers should head to the Sound for steelhead, salmon, halibut and dungeness crabs. If you are boatless, the Elliot Bay Fishing Pier is best for casting from land, and is a great place to trap up to six crabs with chicken carcasses. To cash in on the famous salmon runs, check the forecast to find the high time for filling your two-salmon bag limit with your choice of species. Make sure you use barbless hooks and a pole that can withstand the strength of a fish that can jump up a waterfall (also ensure that you aren’t catching wild salmon in an area where only hatchery salmon fishing is allowed). Fly fishers should look to the Skagit River about 90 minutes north of the city for the best fly fishing in Washington State. There, spey or two-handed rod anglers will find fish year round, including steelhead, rainbow trout, bull trout, sea run cutthroat trout and all five species of salmon.[/one_half_last]

San Diego, California

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When people think San Diego, they imagine a mild, sunny climate, and they’re correct. In the winter, it stays in the upper 50s; in the summer, the lower 70s. Water temperatures vary even less. The city was also the birthplace of the plastic worm bait back in 1949, and for a reason: it’s one of the best fishing destinations in the world. The city sits atop the Mexican border, with the San Diego River bisecting it into north and south, freshwater lakes dotting the landscape and the deep water harbor of the Pacific lapping at its shores. This varied topography, scarred with canyons and mesas, maintains its microclimate alongside the deep water harbor the serves as main homeport of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet; it also hosts the world’s largest sport fishing fleet, which comes for San Diego’s prolific tuna and billfish fisheries.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
A temporary fishing license costs $15 for one day and $46 for 10 days. If you’re fishing in the extremely primitive and beautiful Barrett Lake or Upper Otay Lake you are only allowed artificial lures with barbless hooks. Every species in these lakes is catch-and-release, especially the Northern-strain Black Bass in Barrett, which is the only significant remaining population of its kind in San Diego County. The legality of day and night fishing varies by location and fish species, so make sure you consult the rulebook. Anglers going out on a charter boat only need to worry about bringing their ID for any stops by the Coast Guard; all tackle, bait and fishing licenses (including Mexican licenses for Mexican waters) are usually available from the sportfishing charter company. Simply call ahead to verify.

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
Sportfishers taking boats offshore can catch yellowfin, bluefin, yellowtail, albacore, mahi mahi, marlin and mako, while pier fishers at Ocean Beach (which hosts San Diego’s longest pier) and Crystal Pier can hook halibut, rockfish, sheephead, croaker, corbina or white sea bass. But make sure you get off the piers and do some surf fishing to take in the beaches that make the city famous. San Diego also hosts 20 lakes and reservoirs filled with trout, bluegill, catfish, sturgeon, carp and crappies. For lake fishing: find guides here and here, including highlights like beautiful day hikes at Lake Murray and Lake Cuyamaca, which is also stocked with trout year round.


Richmond, Virginia

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The approximate seven-mile stretch of the James River that runs through the city of Richmond is truly an environmental success story. By the mid 1970s, pollution from tobacco and other manufacturing plants had gotten so bad that fishing was banned all the way down to the Chesapeake Bay for thirteen years. After major cleanup efforts (and the factories lining the river turning into luxury lofts), Richmond has taken back to the water. Outdoor Magazine went as far as to name Richmond the best river town in America. This historic town has excellent fishing opportunities with its unique mixture of roaring rapids, deep pools, and calm flat water, all within the city limits.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
Freshwater fishing fees are pretty easy: $16 for the year as a resident, or $8 a day if you’re not from the good commonwealth; licenses are available online. Expect to find some good-sized largemouth lunkers, and be ready to release anything less than 22 inches long. No fancy fishing setups are required in Richmond. Most get by just fine with a classic spincast rod and reel, though there are some great spots to unwind a nice cast with a fly rod. Expect to toss the typical bait and lures associated with bass and catfish; do your best to find the deeper pools with brighter bait on a hot summer day.

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
Along with the aforementioned largemouths, smallmouth bass can be found on the James, as well as longnose gar, sunfish, and carp. Where the rapids give way to tidally influenced water, blue catfish and bass reign — just don’t expect to be able to keep more than one catfish longer than 34 inches a day for your fish fry; specific creel and length limits are governed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Off of the river, seasonal stockings of brown and rainbow trout can be found at Shields Lake as part of an Urban Fishing Program. Hugenot Flatwater, the scenic and popular Pony Pasture Rapids, Mayo’s Bridge, and Chapel Island near the rapidly gentrifying Shockoe Bottom area all provide great opportunities to get your line wet and enjoy the James River.

Savannah, Georgia

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At the intersection of classic southern charm and debauchery lies Savannah, GA. Many tourists revel in the town’s surplus of history and guided tours, yet few take time to enjoy the bountiful estuary that surrounds the city. Savannah’s cooking heritage reflects it, too: every restaurant you enter has a menu bursting with seafood options, the vast majority of which are local offerings. And yet these local offerings are not being harvested from the Savannah River, which encompasses the nation’s fourth largest seaport. This makes for some heavy, massive barge traffic and hazardous navigation for novice captains. Instead, there are countless other backwater fishing opportunities to be found cutting their way across the Costal Empire’s landscape.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
A Georgia State fishing license costs $9 a year for residents, $45 a year for nonresidents, or $5 a day for nonresident saltwater shore fishing. A medium-action baitcast or spinning reel with 10- to 12-pound test line will suit you just fine for most game fish. Heavy leaders (35-pound test) are recommended if you’re looking to go after the more ferocious sort. Natural baits work wonders, but some actively fished stick baits work well too. Within city limits no additional regulations apply; be sure to consult the GA Department of Natural Resources manual for size limits. Bring a casting net to harvest baitfish and, especially, shrimp. Casting nets must have 5/8-inch mesh or larger, and weights over 2 pounds are typically not necessary.

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
Freshwater fishing in the city is non-existent for all intents and purposes. But to the southeast, salt marshes well within city limits provide a playground for fishermen. Spinfish for sea trout, redfish and flounder; use casting nets for delicious, world-class Georgia whites, which spawn here; you can even go flounder gigging, which involves slowly poling along in a boat at night, shining a spotlight and spearing the flounders when their eyes give them away.

Chatham County, which encompasses the city itself, offers the best conventional fishing spots around: 10 boat launch/fishing pier access points in the brackish Savannah River. Nearly every pier is great for sheepshead fishing. Live fiddler crabs make for excellent bait when searching for a lunker. At any of the piers, expect to find sharks, which intrigue most anglers but, after four or five lost rigs, can become frustrating. Sea trout, redfish, and flounder also frequent many of the piers. Charters are readily available from Tybee Island (only 12 miles from Savannah), which can carry you out to some deeper waters where Spanish mackerel, barracuda, and dolphin fish can be found.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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With apologies to the Pacific Northwest, they used to call Minnesota the Great Northwest. The Land of Sky Blue Waters. (Your dad and Grandpa drank beer that had that tag line. Go ahead. Ask ‘em.)

And the epicenter? The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (we just call ‘em “The Cities”) are two towns that have hundreds of lakes right in the city limits. And those lakes are peppered with fishing docks — small piers that are built 20, 30, 50 feet out into the lake to allow eager anglers to get closer to the finned ones.

Minnesota is the land of walleye, northern pike, bass of mouth large and small, trout, and the elusive — and toothy — muskellunge (“muskie”). But the Cities are the domain of panfish — sunnies, bluegills, and crappies. Sure, you’ll find northern pike, walleyes, and bass in town, and once in a while someone catches the elusive muskie. But it’s panfish most are after. Fair warning: if you’re hauling a boat, pay attention to the regulations regarding invasive species. And pay attention to daily possession limits.

Licenses, Regulations, and What You Need:
A valid Minnesota fishing license costs $10 for a one-day resident license, and $22 for an annual resident license. For non-residents, it’s $12 and $45, respectively. A boat, canoe, or kayak can give you access to areas that are tough to reach from land, but these are far from necessary for catching fish. And of course, you need tackle. A light spinning rod and spinners will work fine for panfish. Use a larger rod to toss spoons, plugs, or bait for larger species. An interesting variant when fishing these warm lakes is a fly rod. A 6- or 8-weight rod and poppers fished along the edges of weed beds are your best bet for top-water action. A smallmouth bass on a fly rod is the most exciting freshwater fishing you’ll ever encounter.

Where to Go and What to Fish For:
There’s a river that flows through the heart of town called the Mississippi. One friend caught eight or nine species in one evening below the Ford Dam. Head to one of the fishing docks at Lake Harriet in southwest Minneapolis for a nice batch of crappies. Harriet’s a good bet for muskies, too, if you’ve taken a shot to the head recently. Try the northwest corner of the lake, and use big minnows. For bluegills, and more crappies, any lake in the entire metro area will do nicely, and most have fishing docks so you don’t need a boat. If you do have a boat, canoe or kayak, the bays of Lake Minnetonka and White Bear Lake harbor bass and northern pike along with panfish. And if you have access to a boat, head northwest on I-94 to Monticello, just a few miles out of town, and float the Mississippi down to Elk River. You’ll encounter some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the United States.